News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Friday, March 23, 2012

The ascendance of James Crow, Jr.

It never occurred to progressives during the celebration of electing a black president in 2008 that Obama's election would inspire a resurgence of racial, religious, and gender discrimination.  From the outset, GOP leaders announced that their main goal for the country was to get Obama out of office.  While progressives were basking in the idea that America had surmounted its racist past by choosing a black man as its leader, the conservatives were boiling with an intense anger and resentment that propelled the nation backward into that pre-civil rights past.  The GOP, once the party of Lincoln that began the liberation of black America, now openly courted the forces of discrimination and oppression as it power base.  Its mission became the push backward to overturn the racial, ethnic, and gender equities that the civil rights movement had established.  The values that conservatives wanted to conserve were not the liberating and elevating ones of Lincoln, but the regressive and oppressive values of George Wallace and Orval Faubus, southern governors who openly professed their racial hatred and made it a governing principle.  


The GOP agenda is snarled up in its efforts to maintain the appearance of beneficence while serving the insidious purposes of the social regressives.  While indignantly denying any racial agenda, it has launched federal and multi-state legislative proposals to reduce voting rights, subjugate women, oppress labor, punish immigrant minorities, dismantle public education, and impose the Christian version of sharia on the nation.  The rage and incoherence demonstrated in its presidential primary campaigns is one symptom of its furor to reverse the equities that have been granted since World War II.  The rage to defame the designated groups is too volatile to suppress.  It keeps spilling out in words and deeds, often in absurd and obvious ways that fool no one but the perpetrators of the new Jim Crow. 





One such instance of malicious contrivance was one of the last efforts of Andrew Breitbart, who devoted himself to the craft and dishonesty of fabricating misleading, often stupid lies out of videos.  Just before he died, he provided Fox News with a video that showed President Obama as a law student introducing and hugging one of his Harvard Law School professors,  Derrick  Bell.  The GOP has an essential interest in painting Derrick Bell as a raving "racialist" and accusing Obama of being one of his adherents.   Derrick Bell was a developer of the Critical Race Theory.   The Critical Race Theory as Bell conceived it provides an incisive explanation of what the GOP is promoting in its agendas of oppression. 


Derrick Bell posed the Critical Race Theory when gains made during the civil rights movement were stalling, were being blocked, or were in danger of being reversed.  As a legal scholar, Bell was primarily interested in how attitudes about race affected the law.  He examined the way racial biases affected the formation of law, its application, and judiciary challenges.  His basic premise was that racism is not a cultural aberration, but is ingrained in American society in ways that seem to many an integral aspect that defines the society.  



Two opposite perspectives operate in America.  One, which is usually but mistakenly identified as "liberal," is that social pathologies such as racism are undeniable aspects of society as demonstrated in history.  Slavery, the dispossession and oppression of the American Indian, women's suffrage and rights, religious intolerance and persecution, to name a few of those aspects, are facts of history that America has struggled to rise above.  It is tha struggle  which has defined the values and the unique force that America has represented to the world.  Freedom, equality, and justice were the goals set by the founders, and America has  worked gradually toward achieving them,  recognizing that there are those segments of the population which do not want those values to apply to all people.  


The opposite perspective is held by those who take offense against people  who openly acknowledge America's history, its transgressions against human rights, and regard the struggle to surmount its past and present inequities and oppression as the driving national purpose.  Those who are offended by this acknowledgment prefer to dismiss America's past transgressions against humanity and assert that America was created with a divinely bestowed exceptionalism.  They regard any criticism of America as a weakness,  an expression of anti-patriotic of values, an obsequious deference to foreign thinking.  They conceive of international bullying as the demonstration of national strength and leadership. Any apology for insults or violence done to others  is portrayed as an obsequious degradation of  America by them. Obama's apology to Afghanistan for the mistaken burning of Qurans has met with denunciations of his character and intellect for them.  However, anyone who does not treat those denunciations  with obsequy is upbraided for incivility. Both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shouted that they will never apologize for America.  

Emmet Till in his casket.
The picture that  launched the civil rights movement
The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has been an explosive gauge of the state of civil rights, race, and violence in America.  It has demonstrated to the nation some stunning realities that cannot be obscured by the false rhetoric of dismissal and denial.  The killing has struck the nation with the kind of force that the lynching and murder of Emmett Till in 1955 had in forcing America to face the racial realities.  The killing of 14-year-old Till gave the civil rights movement the impetus to become the major  concern on the national agenda.  The killing of Trayvon Martin has brought the nation to that kind of confrontation with reality again.


Trayvon Martin

 The spirit of Jim Crow has emerged again as a force in American social and political life.  The work of America in trying to make liberty, equality, and justice its defining values is never done.  And there is always the chance that the forces of discrimination and oppression will become the majority.  Many would like to retreat into fascist chauvinism and insist on the America that once sustained slavery and conducted genocide against the American Indians and designated labor and women to the status of servitude. 


America has still to become America, if its people will allow it. 




4 comments:

Bob Ellis said...

Check your history, Professor--that is, if you have the slightest interest in the truth (a proposition of which I have yet to see any evidence).

It was your malignant party that sought to keep black Americans enslaved.

It was your malignant party that went so far as to create another nation based on slavery.

It was your malignant party that, when brought back into the fold, continued to work to deny black Americans their full freedom.

It was your malignant party that came up with the Jim Crow Laws.

It was your malignant party that fought to segregate black Americans for a hundred years.

And it is your malignant party that continues to try to keep black Americans under your thumb by treating them as if they aren't good enough to take care of themselves or accomplish anything without your benevolent help.

You should be ashamed at your own party's history, and your own attempts to deceive. But it takes a well-functioning conscience to feel shame, so I won't hold my breath.

David Newquist said...

I generally delete the deranged rages of Bob Ellis. However, here I point out that I acknowledged the switching of roles by the political parties on racial matters: "The GOP, once the party of Lincoln that began the liberation of black America, now openly courted the forces of discrimination and oppression as it power base. Its mission became the push backward to overturn the racial, ethnic, and gender equities that the civil rights movement had established. The values that conservatives wanted to conserve were not the liberating and elevating ones of Lincoln, but the regressive and oppressive values of George Wallace and Orval Faubus, southern governors who openly professed their racial hatred and made it a governing principle."

Mr. Ellis' hate-possessed outbursts are typical and representative, not of aberration, as Derrick Bell pointed out, but of a deeply ingrained mental pathology.

larry kurtz said...

Had Trayvon also been armed he could have defended himself but would have been arrested if the roles were reversed and Ellis would be howling about it.

When jesus wore a hoodie.

John said...

Nice rebuttal to Ellis's "life in the 19th and 20th century was better" vomit.

Thoughts expressed by Ellis and generally by too many others in South Dakota characterizes the rearward looking nature of their personal politics; thus their inability to deal with the present world as it actually exists.

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